FC Kansas City Round Table Part One

The Reporting KC staff got together ahead of the start of the NWSL season to discuss FC Kansas City.

Opening day for FC Kansas City is tomorrow at Children’s Mercy Park. The team is getting ready to start their quest for their third straight NWSL championship.

Since there have been so many changes to the team in the off season, the Reporting KC team decided to discuss the many changes that have taken place.

With both Amy Rodriguez and her replacement Sydney Leroux set to miss most of the season due to being pregnant, who will score all the goals?

Eric Atcheson – “Heather O’Reilly is the obvious answer, but there’s a bit more to this than just saying “Yep, it’s on HAO now.” FCKC has often made use of a target forward in the past, whether as a part of a one- or two- striker formation. In its inaugural season, it was Melissa Henderson. Later, that role was taken at times by Sarah Hagen or Morgan Marlborough. Right now, FCKC just doesn’t have that sort of a physical presence up top–HAO is only 5’5″, and her likely deputy Shea Groom is only 5’6″, and neither are especially known for their hold-up play.

What we may see from FCKC is a bit more of a direct style of play like we saw at the very beginning of its first season with lots of passes played through to Renae Cuellar, which she would then take to goal herself or lay off for a breaking Lauren Holiday. But yeah, in a sentence, it’s going to be on HAO and Shea to score the goals, possibly with some help from Tiffany McCarty and Caroline Kastor in late appearances off the bench.”

Chad Smith – “From what I’ve seen in preseason it looks like Shea Groom will be heavily relied on to play the striker role. She missed a lot of 2015 with injury so that’s a lot of pressure on her to step up. I know Eric believes Heather O’Reilly will step up and play that role, but I’m not sure she will. I have no doubt she will contribute goals and I know a lot of other teams play their United States National Team players as strikers when they don’t play that role with the National Team, but I’ve never seen the skill set from HAO that would indicate she can play a true striker.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if FCKC line-up in a bit of a 4-3-3 with HAO and Erika Tymrak playing winger roles. That might be an effective way to get more bodies in the box but also allow the ability to drop back if things aren’t going well and play more of a 4-5-1 as Sporting KC often do. My guess is Tiffany McCarty will be Groom’s most likely backup.”

Betsy Klee – “I think success this year will be hugely reliant on teamwork. There’s a lot of talent on the team and I think that it’s going  to be critical for the players to focus on the team as a whole instead of their individual effort. I expect to see a lot of our goals scored by Shea Groom, Erika Tymrak, Frances Silva and Heather O’Reilly. They all have the drive and they are good about attacking the goal.”

FCKC are dealing with a rash of retirements (Lauren Holiday, Leigh Ann Brown, Amy LePielbet, and on and on) and huge roster turnover (Becca Moros, Sarah Hagen), who will actually be the likely Starting XI.

Eric Atcheson – “I think it depends on whether Vlatko decides to deploy someone like Groom or McCarty up top as a genuine second striker with HAO. But if he goes with a one-striker formation, I imagine it’d look something like this:

GK Barnie
RB Arlitt? Or maybe Taylor here out of position, with Averbuch next to Becky in central defense
CB Broon
CB Taylor
LB Averbuch…maybe Bowen once she graduates from UNC
D-Mid pairing of Scott and Buzz (hey, it worked well in 2013, right?)
Attacking midfield trio of Tymrak, Averbuch, and Laddish or Silva
Striker HAO

I think in a two-striker formation, we may see something like the 4222 “empty bucket,” with Scott and Buczkowski still at CDM, Tymrak and another attacking midfielder as wingers, and HAO with Groom or whoever up top.”

Betsy Klee – “I think there are still a lot of questions to be answered, but my best guess for now would be:

GK Nicole Barnhart

DEFAlex Arlitt

DEF Becky Sauerbrunn

DEFBrittany Taylor

DEF NOT SURE

MID Jen Buczkowski

MID Yael Averbuch

MID Heather O’Reilly

MID Erika Tymrak

MID Frances Silva

FOR Shea Groom”

During the preseason we’ve seen a lot of players being played out of position. Is this beneficial to the team or will it hurts us in the long run?

Eric Atcheson – “Truthfully, I think it’s going to hurt the team in the long run. Playing a highly technical player like Yael Averbuch in defense, whether out of necessity or otherwise, is never going to result in making the most of that player’s strengths. I get that Vlatko is basically going into this season with one hand already tied behind the back, but I think the best thing he can do in the wake of such massive roster turnover is to try to define some roles to offer stability to the players, and then do everything he can to help them succeed in those roles.”

Chad Smith – “If Jurgen Klinsmann’s mis-management of the USMNT has taught us anything, it’s probably not the best to play people out of position. That said, Jill Ellis has been playing Tobin Heath at right back instead of right winger and it worked really well. The only reason the USWNT can pull it off is because the ball is never in their defensive third.

That won’t be the case for FCKC, so it’s probably best to keep people in their more natural position. That said sometimes players may be better fits elsewhere or needed to play out of position to fill a deficiency. Think of Benny Feilhaber playing defensive midfield. He is a better fit as an attacking midfielder, but when he has to he plays defense to help his team. So how is that for a non-answer, answer?”

Betsy Klee – “I don’t see any problem with developing a players skill outside of their natural position, but I would have to agree with Chad that it’s probably not the best to play them out of position. It’s great to have players that can do it if there’s a desperate situation where they need to fill a hole but probably not the most ideal situation in the long term. We’ll have to wait and see!”

Look to Reporting KC tomorrow morning for the second part of our round table discussion. The Blues will be taking on the Western New York Flash tomorrow evening at 7:30PM at Children’s Mercy Park.